Leda Making a Hat Out of a Swan, 2018, oil on canvas and magazine pages, 36 x 48"
Question: Where does your vision come from?
It's a kind of alchemy I suppose this painting thing. The idea that the energy that goes into a mark is contained in that mark helps me process what is happening to me and around me. Being a bit of a scavenger, I quite often start from a place in art history, mythology, or antiquity that will then push me to poetry, music, and yes, facebook and the collective voices of my time in my rabbit hole. I collect it all and put it into the work. One thing informs another and so the work shifts and slips into another reality. This is what I mean when I say that my work is in a constant state of becoming. At some point, it becomes about the mark making and finding ways to move my eyes around the painting.
Leda and the Swan has been the subject in art for centuries. The Greek myth of the god Zeus takes the form of a swan, and depending on the interpretation of artist in their reflection of their time, he either seduces or rapes Leda; it is an erotic bestiality sex fantasy, a love story, or a crime scene.
If I try to break down my thought process for this painting, it would look like this:
1. #MeToo, Women's March, The Silence Breakers
2. Thinking about that Leda and the Swan painting by Michelangelo
3. Looking at the engraving by Cornelis Bos (1530-155)
4. I choose this imagery based on the strength of Leda, knowing she could break that Swan's neck at any moment.
5. Read Yeats sonnet describes it as a rape scene.
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
6. Women's Movement images
7. The Tiger Hunt by Rubens. I look at Rubens a lot because of the way he creates a dynamic and balanced composition. The figures/animals interlock in a tangled but carefully choreographed mass so that all movement is contained.
8. Look at Cy Twombly's two paintings inspired by Leda and the Swan. Leda and the Swan is in fact one of the most frequent themes of Twombly's work of the early 1960's. "With it 's eroticism and violence, Leda and the Swan exemplifies the 'blood and foam' style that dominated the artist's work until 1966."
9. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: (a translation)
When the god yearning entered the swan, the swan's splendor shattered him. He let himself vanish within its flesh. Completely entangled. He was drawn to the act before he could probe what it meant to be and to feel in this strange way. He asked for the one thing that she, tangled and resisting him, could no longer withhold. He came at her harder thrusting his neck through her hand growing weaker and weaker. He let is godhead disperse into what he loved.
10. Facebook post
11. This painting physically took on all these visions of Leda, the seductress, the lover, the erotic fantasy, the victim, the survivor; and of the swan, the god, the seducer, the erotic fantasy, the "shattered" victim of love, the rapist.
12. But the last bit, the last piece that is all mine comes from a great true story about a friend of mine from Louisiana. She went into a thrift store and found a fur coat and just had to have it. She paid for it and wore it out of the store. Almost immediately she was harassed by animal rights activists. In her loud New Orleans accent she said, "Where I come from we are proud to wear what we kill!" Then she turned to me and said, "I don't know why they are so upset. It's not even full length."
This memory came to me as I was trying desperately to resolve this painting...it was lacking revenge and a fucking good punchline. It was then I realized that I could enhance this story. And so I did. And this is how the swan became a hat.